Disadvantaged journalism students in the UK will be given more financial support to complete their work experience placements even if they are still working from home because of coronavirus restrictions.
The Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) has today reintroduced its Placement Assistance Scheme (PAS) for the second year, with support from the Google News Initiative, BBC and ITV.
Students from disadvantaged socioeconomic groups can apply for funding which will help them complete work experience that they would otherwise miss out on.
Many work experience placements have also been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, which is frustrating for students who have set requirements to meet to graduate. The scheme provides an alternative way for students to meet those criteria and receive financial support.
"This is about making journalism more inclusive - we are passionate about this," says Jon Godel, chief executive, BJTC.
"Students who benefit from this scheme will get the opportunity to make new contacts that they would not have been able to make before."
How are the funds determined?
The scheme is only eligible to students on a BJTC-accredited course who are in the final two years of an undergraduate course, or on a post-graduate course.
Only applicants from state-funded schools, college or fee-paying schools with a scholarship will be considered.
If BJTC receives the maximum number of application, those who are the first in their family to go to university, were eligible for free school meals and have a background of being in care will have priority. Students in last year's scheme will also not be eligible for further funding.
In last year's pilot fund, 153 students were supported through the scheme, amounting to around £31,000 in total funding (£200 each).
What can you spend the money on?
Funds are not ring-fenced for any specific use. Students can use the money to their own discretion without having to provide proof of purchases.
Even though students may not have to pay out for train fares, they may find it hard to cover other costs, like higher electricity or broadband bills, childcare or specific software. It may even mean they have to take time off work, so the funds can supplement lost earnings.
A case example from the pilot scheme
One recipient of last year’s pilot fund was Bryony Smith. While studying on a post-graduate broadcast journalism course at City, University of London, the PAS had supported her placement at BBC Radio Norfolk in December 2019.
She received £200 from the fund, which she used for the 45-minute commute from Suffolk, where she lives outside of the university, to Norfolk. Unfortunately, her other placements she had lined up around Easter and summer 2020 were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
She was the first in her family to go to university. The money was needed as she had worked for two years to self-fund the course and high costs associated with moving to, and living in, the UK capital.
"Any help, however small, was beneficial," she says. "Students do not have much disposable cash, so it is important [to support] placements because that is how you meet people, network and hear about work."
The work experience proved crucial, as she is now working freelance shifts as a broadcast journalist for BBC Berkshire. Placements, she said, have taught her about the standards required to make it in the industry.
"Student journalism and journalism suitable for broadcast are very different, so that [experience] added a lot to my CV."
What qualifies as virtual work experience?
The BJTC requires students to do a minimum of three weeks (15 days) of work experience to be eligible and it is accepting virtual work experience.
Employers must provide clear supervision and a point of contact to the student, with set targets and deliverables.
What happens if work experience is cancelled?
Many students, like Smith, have found their opportunities disappear throughout the coronavirus pandemic. If that happens to you, you can still receive support from the PAS in which to complete alternative work experience.
Here, students can instead submit four items of real-world evidence which demonstrate employability, professional work and networking within the industry whilst working from home. This can be a job application or a story pitch to an editor; feedback on their work from an industry mentor or a professional; or a critical reflection on a news organisation.
The first two are self-explanatory but the latter is broader. The student must interview an industry professional like a journalist or editor of their choice about how the business or newsroom operates.
This could be focused on a specific revenue stream, like launching a membership programme. Or alternatively, it could be an editorial strategy around, for example, using podcasts or Instagram as a way to reach new audiences. (Do check the Journalism.co.uk website for inspiration, as we report on these topics all the time).
How do I apply?
Applicants will receive a confirmation on the week commencing 14 December 2020 and the money will be released when the student provides proof of a placement offer to the BJTC.
In the event a student has a placement between September and December, they can claim back-payment for this work upon confirmation of eligibility.
Journalism.co.uk is supporting virtual work experience placements at the moment. If you would like to spend a week or two with us, please email email@example.com. Also, keep an eye on our jobs board for the latest opportunities.